India court allows Modi’s BJP to form state government despite lacking majority

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses party supporters during a celebration event in New Delhi on Tuesday, May 15. (AFP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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India court allows Modi’s BJP to form state government despite lacking majority

NEW DELHI: A leader from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party was sworn in as chief minister of a key southern Indian state on Thursday, despite lacking a majority, after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute bid to block the move.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the biggest winner in the Karnataka state election but has fallen short of a majority, sparking a scramble for power between the party and its arch rival Congress.
The Congress party, which lost sole control of the state in Saturday’s election, tried to stop the BJP’s B.S. Yeddyurappa from taking the oath as chief minister by stitching up a last-minute coalition with a smaller regional party.
But the BJP argued that it should get the first chance to form a government as it is the largest party and state governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala gave it 15 days to prove it has a majority, prompting the Congress to go to court.
Following a three-hour hearing that began around midnight, the Supreme Court rejected the Congress claim that it already had a majority by joining hands with the smaller Janata Dal (Secular) party.
The BJP won 104 seats in the 224-member assembly, nine short of a majority. Congress fell to 78 seats from 122 in the previous election. It has offered to support Janata Dal that won 37 seats.
Congress and Janata Dal also claim to have the support of two independents and have accused the BJP of trying to bribe their members to switch sides.
Janata Dal leader H.D. Kumaraswamy said the BJP had offered $15 million each to as many as 32 lawmakers. The BJP denies the claims.
Congress is desperate to cling on to Karnataka, its last major bastion after being defeated in 12 state elections since it lost the national government to Modi in 2014.
Its leader Rahul Gandhi, scion of India’s famed Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has still not won a state election since he took over from his mother Sonia Gandhi last year.
With national elections due next year, state polls are being closely watched by both parties.


Pakistan’s 21-member Cabinet is sworn in, Imran Khan pledges change

Updated 17 min 22 sec ago
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Pakistan’s 21-member Cabinet is sworn in, Imran Khan pledges change

  • President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath of office to 16 federal ministers in Islamabad
  • Separately, Prime Minister Imran Khan has also appointed five advisers to his Cabinet

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s 21-member Cabinet was sworn in Monday, a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan pledged to cut government spending, end corruption and repatriate public funds.
President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath of office to 16 federal ministers in Islamabad. Separately, Khan has also appointed five advisers to his Cabinet.
Khan, whose populist party won most parliament seats in the July 25 elections but fell short of a majority, forcing it to form a coalition, took the oath of office on Saturday as Pakistan’s 22nd premier. He campaigned on promises of rooting out endemic corruption and breaking powerful landowners’ monopoly on political power.
“I want to see Pakistan a great country” with social services for the poor, Khan said.
Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said after taking his oath of office that he is aware of foreign policy challenges ahead. Foreign policy, he said, will be revised and set on the correct path, in the “interest of Pakistan.”
Qureshi said he would reach out to counterparts in the region and focus on key issues of critical importance to Pakistan.
“Pakistan needs a peaceful and stabilized Afghanistan; our future is linked to peace in Afghanistan” Qureshi said. He said he wants to visit Kabul soon with a message that “we have to help and support each other and have to look for solutions of each other’s problems.”
Both neighboring India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and cannot afford any adventure, he said. “We have long standing, complex problems and have no option but to start a dialogue.”
He welcomed that Indian Prime Minister Modi in a congratulatory message to Khan expressed desire for talks.
As for ties with the United States, Qureshi said Pakistan wants bilateral relations based on respect and trust.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to make a stop in Islamabad on his way to India and Afghanistan in the first week of September.
“There is a trust deficit in our relations from both sides and we have to bridge it” Qureshi said of US and Pakistan. “In meetings with the US secretary of state, I will boldly apprise him of our aspirations.”